Questions on Quality Teaching

There is some commonality in educationists in US as well as in India. They are concerned about the quality of teaching. The Indians are worried about the traditional way of teaching that is based on a disproportionate and unhealthy bias towards rote learning since Vedic era, where all Vedas were to be memorized. In math, the memorizing of tables were very critical, necessary, and important for the students in the beginners’ classes. Educationists think it unfit for developing a knowledge-based atmosphere. To them, students appear to be learning mechanically rather than truly understanding the concepts. ‘India Today’ has published an article based on an extensive survey jointly conducted by jointly by Wipro Applying Thought in Schools (founded by Bangalore-based software giant Wipro) http://www.wiproapplyingthoughtinschools.com/ and Educational Initiatives (EI), http://www.ei-india.com/ a reputed educational research organization headquartered in Ahmedabad covering 32,000 students in 142 of India’s top private schools spread across five metros- Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai and Kolkata. ‘When their performance was compared to students in 43 other countries, Indian schools fared well below international levels.’ Multiple-choice questions, those were devised to test the learning achievements of the students. Questions were also taken from an international assessment study. Some findings are interesting:

Worryingly, when international comparisons were done, class IV students in Indian schools performed far below average in Mathematics and Science when compared to their counterparts in 43 other countries.
In a somewhat controversial finding, boys outperformed girls in Maths. Perhaps, because of societal pressure that compels parents to force their male children to excel in Mathematics.
I wonder if these findings make our education department change the system, and teachers will be trained to handle the gap. But more than that I feel there must be serious debate on the findings, as something opposite is reported from US. One story is as follows:

It is interesting that education officials in US are rethinking about the teaching of math in American schools. American students lag in performance on international tests. Mathematicians think that more than a decade of so-called reform math – critics call it fuzzy math – has crippled students with its de-emphasizing of basic drills and memorization in favour of allowing children to find their own ways to solve problems. Worried parents are paying for tutoring math, even for young children. “When my oldest child, an A-plus stellar student, was in sixth grade, I realized he had no idea, no idea at all, how to do long division,” a concerned mother said, “so I went to school and talked to the teacher, who said, ‘We don’t teach long division; it stifles their creativity.’ ”

Surprisingly, when I looked into the math questions on pattern of CAT or GRE, I found unless someone is mentally trained to solve the problems, it would be difficult even for students of much higher classes to solve them correctly. I wish I could have copied them.

Even with our traditional rote based teaching, Indians students have performed well in higher education that demanded a lot of analytical capability. With age, need, and interest, a person develops himself. Before making a major change in education, some sound experiment must be designed and carried out. However, I agree to one point. The whole lot of teachers must be trained regularly, and a lot of material must be made available to them about the art of teaching and develop creativity and attitude for innovation among children. Perhaps, the new web site of HRD can serve the purpose, but before that all the teachers are to b computer savvy. Many domestic and foreign IT companies such as Wipro, IBM, Intel, and Microsoft to name few are doing good work with that mission.

Doesn’t it raise a question of the standard of education, especially in English medium schools in major metros, considered among the best in the world and possibly the reason why India is fast emerging as a knowledge superpower? Perhaps, it does not. These schools are just like the American schools that have been practising fuzzy math.

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